Oakland topped UWM, 76-68, in a conference matchup to open up the Horizon League Thursday night at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
Kendrick Nunn led Oakland’s offense. The senior guard dropped 36 points for his visiting Oakland Golden Grizzlies team. Nunn came into the game ranked No. 1 in scoring in the Horizon League.
Martez Walker and Jalen Hayes – who are ranked 2 and 3 – followed up with 14 and 10 points.
“Our guys were extremely excited,” said Milwaukee head coach Pat Baldwin.
“You can tell that with the way they came out and played hard and competed. But then there was too much Kendrick Nunn toward the end, making plays that he had to make in order to seal the win for his team. Nunn is a really, really good player. Give him credit and their team credit for finding him and letting him loose for 36.”
The excitement took off from the beginning, as both teams came out with intensity on offense. Oakland took the first lead, but UWM did not trail behind much.
This would be the story of the night. The Panthers got the home crowd on their feet in multiple attempts to comeback from trailing.
Milwaukee scored layups and triples to make it a back and forth ballgame. Brock Stull scored back to back from deep late in the half to cut at the lead a final time before halftime. Stull finished with 19 points, nine rebounds, and five assists.
The biggest comeback began at the start of the second half when UWM forward Bryce Nze got hit with a double technical and was asked to leave the game.
The sophomore had seven rebounds and four points in 20 minutes before heading to the locker room.
“I don’t know what it was,” said Baldwin.
“The only thing I was told is just what Nze had said. I’ve got to find out from Nze exactly what he felt. To me, it’s unacceptable and we have to have better composure than that. There’s going to be a lot of chaos in a game and it’s going to be heated. But at the same time, it’s got to be composed. We can’t get in situations like that which puts our team in jeopardy and puts us into even more of a hole.”
Nze’s ejection noticeably heightened the tension of the game. The Golden Grizzlies never let up on their offense, scoring a 15-2 run that stretched the lead to 19.
The Panthers took advantage with efforts on both ends of the floor. A steal and two by Jeremiah Bell midway through the half changed the direction of the game. Bell stole another one possession later, which earned UWM a trip to the free throw line.
Bell finished the game with 11 points and 3 steals.
Brett Prahl and Vance Johnson showed up in Nze’s absence in the paint. Prahl added 12 points and seven rebounds while Johnson had 10 and six, along with a pair of blocks off the bench. Scoring from newcomer Johnson is what the Panthers have been waiting on.
“I think what Vance is doing is he’s learning as he goes,” said Baldwin.
“He’s learning where his comfort zone is. He’s finding his niche out there on the floor. We’ve talked to him about getting to the glass a little bit more and making an impact there. He earned more opportunities and minutes tonight. If he keeps that up, it increases for him.”
UWM stayed aggressive, forcing turnovers and missed shots on Oakland. August Haas joined Bell in coming up with a steal with just five minutes remaining.
Oakland powered back with help from Nunn who made a long two and then a three. The three placed Oakland up from four to seven with just three minutes remaining.
Nunn scored 19 of his 36 points in the second half. Oakland continued to pound on offense and the Panthers could not keep up with the lead.
The Panthers have one more conference matchup at home this evening at 6 p.m. against the Detroit Mercy before heading on a five-game road trip.